Weekend Preview: IAU World 24-hour Championships come to Belfast…


IAU World 24-hour Championships come to Belfast… and more!

The eyes of the world will be on Northern Ireland this coming weekend when the IAU World 24 hour Championships take place at Victoria Park in Belfast.

Over the last 7 years, the well-organised 24 hour race has grown in stature, incorporating the AAI National 24 hour Championships – now, it’s the World Championships!

Albeit by far the biggest event of the weekend, it is not the only event, the domestic races continue, with the Spelga Skyline Mountain Race and the Ards Half Marathon the two most notable fixtures.

Outside Northern Ireland, a plethora of junior and masters talent will travel south for the AAI National Junior, Under 23 and Masters Track & Field Championships in Tullamore, Ireland.  A number of local track stars will also compete in England and Switzerland.

Before we look at the feature event, the World 24 hour Championships, we’ll look at where the action begins…


Freddy Sittuk won the Ards HM in 2013!
Ards Half Marathon:

The weekend action will kick off later tonight (Friday 30th June 2017) in Newtownards, where athletes will toe the line of the annual Ards Half Marathon.  The event is part of the ongoing Pure Running Half Marathon Series, organised by ChampionChip Ireland.

Lisburn Half Marathon winner and former winner here, Freddy Sittuk (Raheny Shamrock AC), may compete and should secure top honours if he does.  Freddy won the Lisburn HM in 1:11:34 and is capable of going quicker he if he decides to push on and race it – in terms of potential challengers, it’s hard to say given the lack of information around the event.

However, we’d expect the likes of Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers), Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) and Don Travers (Newry City Runners), all of whom have run well before, to play a part.

In the ladies race, reigning Champion Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) will not start.  This leaves the door open for runner up in 2016 and familiar face at the event, Karen Alexander (Acorns AC), to take charge.  The former Northern Ireland international will make the podium but will it be first place? Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers) and Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC) could also be contenders.


Susan McCartney will line up for Ireland at World 24-Hour Championships!
IAU World 24 hour Championships 2017:

On Saturday 1st July 2017, the eyes of the running world will be on Northern Ireland as the best ultra-distance athletes from around the globe take on the IAU World 24 hour Championships at Victoria Park in Belfast.

Some 42 nations from six continents will be represented, and for the first time it will incorporate the WMA World Masters Age-Groups Championships.  The USA will have the biggest team while the furthest travelled will be Richard Avery and Kim Allen from New Zealand.

Polish world record holder Patrycja Bernowska heads the ladies field – the previous world record had stood for some 8 years but Patrycja broke it at her own National Championships back in February (2017), running 252.6k (159.2 miles).

It also meant she took the European record away from Sweden’s Maria Jansson, who had beaten her at the European Championships in Albi, France last October (2016). Maria will be out to get it back in Belfast.  However, both will be keeping a wary eye on the USA team led by the current World Champion Katalin Nagy, who’ll be backed up by the runner-up from the last World Championships in Turin, Traci Falbo and Courtney Dauwalter, who set a new national record of 250.79k (155.39 miles) at Riverbank earlier this year. That line-up will make the Americans favourites to retain the team title.

The Irish ladies team will be led by Cork’s Ruthann Sheahan who is just back from a training stint in Bhutan. Ruthann’s best place in a World Championship was seventh in Poland in 2012, where she set a new Irish record of 229k (143 miles).  Northern Ireland ladies Susan McCartney and Louise Smart will also feature in the Ireland team.

In the men’s race, World Champion from Turin, Florian Reus (Germany) will be defending his title. So far the German has had a quiet year but in 2015 he ran 263.89k (163.9 miles) to win the World Championships and followed that up by winning the Spartathlon.

American Pete Kostelnick will also be worth watching – he holds the coast-to-coast record in the States and has reportedly been doing big mileage back home. His personal best is 263.41k (163.68 miles).

Great Britain’s men are here to defend their team title from Turin and again have a strong line-up. There’s European Champion from Albi Dan Lawson, who covered 261.8k (162.7 miles) and World bronze medallist Robbie Britton; in Turin, Robbie recorded 261.14k / 162.26 miles.

Dan, known on twitter as ‘Dan the Running Man’, spends his time between his Brighton home and Goa and has a rather unconventional way of approaching major Championships. Before the European Championships he slept on a beach for three nights and this time he’s been to Glastonbury for three days.

Lithuania’s Alexsandr Sorokin is another who’s been beyond 260k mark – he did this in Athens last year (260.49k / 161.86 miles).

It will undoubtedly be a proud moment for Northern Ireland native Eddie Gallen who will fly in from Madrid to captain the Ireland men’s team in his home city.  He has competed for Ireland at the last eight World Championships and this will be his 34th 24-hr race.

National Champion and will-respected endurance specialist Eoin Keith comes here on the back of a remarkable run in May (2017), when he ran the length of Ireland, from Mizen to Malin – he completed this in just over 3 days and 3 hours to break the existing record by nearly 12 hours.  Northern Ireland’s Tim Brownlie will also represent Ireland.


Uphill start at the Spelga Skyline!
Spelga Skyline Mountain Race:

Also on Saturday 1st July 2017, approximately one hundred athletes are expected to take on BARF’s Spelga Skyline Mountain Race in the heart of the Mourne Mountains in County Down.

The event, which is the sixth race of the ongoing Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championship, will cover 12.4 miles in distance and incorporate approximately 1,400m of ascent – it is deemed as a ‘long’ race for Championship purposes.

Gary Bailey (Mourne Runners) and Shane Lynch (Unattached) will feature prominently at the head of the field.  Gary won the last event in the Championship, the Flagstaff-Carlingford Race and Shane secured third place; both men will therefore go into the event high in confidence.  Pete Grant (Newcastle AC), Matthew Hewitt (East Coast AC) and Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) will all be worth watching, as will Simon Reeve (North Belfast Harriers) and Ricky Hanna (Mourne Runners).

The ladies race will bring some of the country’s best mountain runners to the start line.  The always impressive Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) will prove hard to beat, but fellow NI internationals Esther Dickson (Newry AC), Moire O’Sullivan (Unattached), Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC), Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) and Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) will all be chasing podium places.  Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC) and Hazel McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC) will also run well.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Friday 30th June 2017: 

  • Ballyhegan Park N’ Stride 10k & 5k – Ballyhegan Park, Kilmore – 7.30pm (Entries AVAILABLE on the night)

Saturday 1st July 2017:

  • Lisbellaw 5 mile road race – Lisbellaw Utd FC – 12pm (Entries AVAILABLE on the day!)
  • NI YDL Final & Age Group Relay Championships – Mary Peters Track, Belfast – 9am (Please click HERE for more details!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…


Lauren Roy will be hoping to medal at AAI National Championships!
Irish Life AAI National Junior and Under 23 Track & Field Championships:

On Saturday 1st July 2017, a host of Northern Ireland’s top up and coming talented will be in action at the Irish Life AAI National Junior and Under 23 Track & Field Championships in Tullamore, Ireland.

Amongst those chasing medals will be rising stars Craig Newell (Ballymena & Antrim AC), Fintan Stewart (City of Derry AC), James Edgar (City of Lisburn AC), Aaron Sexton (North Down AC), Lauren Roy (City of Lisburn AC), Toni Moore (Carmen Runners), Christian Robinson (City of Lisburn AC) and Gareth Thompson (City of Lisburn AC).  A start list for the event is available HERE.


Martin Cox will be hoping to continue his recent good form at AAI Masters!
Irish Life AAI National Masters Track & Field Championships:

Just 24 hours later, on Sunday 2nd July 2017, veteran athletes from Northern Ireland will be hoping to impress at the Irish Life AAI National Masters Track & Field Championships in Tullamore, Ireland.

Chris McGuinness (Foyle Valley AC), Jonathan Carelton (Ballymena & Antrim AC), Martin Cox (Derry Track Club), Cathal McLaughlin (Derry Track Club), Eoghan Furey (City of Derry AC) and Trevor McGlynn (Omagh Harriers) are just a few familiar faces who will be chasing age category medals.  A start list for the event is available HERE.


Leon Reid aiming for CWG standard in Birmingham!
British Athletics Championships inc Trials (England)… by Athletics NI:

The Province’s top sprinter Leon Reid (Birchfield Harriers) will once again attempt to gain the Commonwealth Games qualification mark in this weekend’s British Championships in Birmingham (Friday 30th July 2017 – Sunday 2nd July 2017), which is the key selection meeting for the forthcoming IAAF World Championships in London.

The 21-year-old Birchfield man recently captured two sprint titles at the NI & Ulster Senior Championships at the Mary Peters Track.  In his 200 metres heat, Leon recorded a time of 20.81 which is only 0.04 off the time required for the Gold Coast Games.  After running a  season’s best time of 20.79 a week earlier the 2014 Commonwealth Games competitor is confident that given good weather he can reach the target in Birmingham particularly as he will be racing against the cream of British sprinters.

Should Leon succeed he will become the eleventh NI athlete to reach a qualification standard for the Games. One athlete already qualified is Cheltenham AC’s Mollie Courtney who will be racing in the 100 metres hurdles along with Belfast’s Megan Marrs, who recently set a PB of 13.68. 19-year-old Mollie recently hit the Gold Coast standard with a time of 13.44 when securing bronze in the England U23 Championships.

Mollie will be hoping that the fierce opposition in Birmingham will push her to a fast time and closer to her PB of 13.28, which she set last year in the World Junior Championships.

Also, this weekend, top hurdler Ben Reynolds (North Down AC) will be competing in Switzerland.


As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty-four parkrun events will take place this weekend, for more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.